Day 2: A Drive To India’s First Green Village, Khonoma
After an introduction to our camp, Rupert Winchester is back again with a story on Khanoma, the first green village in India!
About an hour’s drive north of Kohima Camp lies the village of Khonoma, and trust me, it is absolutely worth visiting. The drive itself is spectacular, you go up and down the vertiginous hills, across high ridges, with gorgeous views for miles!
Khonoma itself occupies a long salient ridge, dwarfed on both sides by higher mountains. The valleys on either side are home to the terraces of rice paddy fields that provide sustenance to the villagers. The mountainsides are thickly forested with old hardwood trees, bamboo, alder and flowering cherry.
Although the village is peaceful today, Khonoma is renowned throughout Nagaland for the ferocity of its warriors. Between 1832 and 1880 the villagers, from some 500 homes, fought four long and bloody battles with the British troops. The final battle, starting in 1879, lasted four terrible months, with awful casualties on both sides. The British finally prevailed, using more than 2,000 troops equipped with cannons, mortars and rifles, against the Angami Naga, armed with rocks, spears and machetes.
Eventually the Angami surrendered, handing over a tragopan (a type of local pheasant) as a token of peace. There is still a marble monument to the British dead at the peak of the village. The chief fort in the village has been rebuilt, proudly, four times over the years, but is now used as a community hall.
A stroll around Khonoma today is to step back in time. The villagers are mainly out in the fields, washing their clothes at the village pumps, chatting in little groups in the cobbled lanes or weaving cane baskets. The guides point out the traditional houses trademarked with narrow lanes, beehives and cabbages growing out of walls, pigs in the wooden pens, and graves of the ancestors close to the doors.
We had lunch on a terrace overlooking the rice fields, smoke from bonfires rising lazily up into the still air and the clouds starting to shroud the high peaks all around us. We drank the local apple wine and ate red rice, chicken, bamboo, mushroom and potato, watching the sunlight play across the green hills in the near distance.
Khonoma is a green village, the first in the country so designated by the Indian government. Hence, no pesticides, no cigarettes, no logging, and everything is recycled. Truly a refreshing day for the spirit.
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